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Five of the Best Places to Fly-Fish in Colorado

If you’re looking for the best fly-fishing in Colorado, you’re spoiled for choice. There are over a dozen Gold Medal streams and lakes in the state. These bodies of water produce at least 60 lbs. of trout and 12 14-inch or larger trout per acre. Add in another 31 high-quality fishing areas, and you’re never far away from a great fishing spot. Trout fishing in Colorado lakes and rivers gives you the chance to catch several species, and there are plenty of places stocked with salmon and pike. We’ve narrowed down these spots to a few we think offer the best opportunities due to long fishing seasons, large numbers of trophy fish and high fish populations.


What To Know Before You Go

Fly-fishing is open year-round in Colorado. The major limiting factor is snow, which blocks access for most of the year in some high-altitude areas. The peak of fly-fishing season runs from the middle of June to the middle of October. However, some people prefer fishing in spring, when shallow waters force fish into deep pockets along river banks. Spawn migrations vary across the state, but the peak season is usually sometime around September. Most areas are tailwater fisheries, but they’re still affected by snow melt, which changes water levels and temperatures through the spring and summer.


If you can prove residency, you’ll pay about half as much for a fishing license versus non-residents. Residents are also allowed to buy combination fishing and hunting licenses at a discount. Licenses are valid for anywhere from a day to a year after purchase. You are allowed to carry two rods if you purchase a 2nd rod stamp for your license. To use your boat in Colorado, you need an Annual Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) stamp, and your boat must be inspected at an ANS station before entering the water. Licenses, rod stamps and ANS stamps can be purchased online from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website, over the phone or at approved dealers.


Fishing on national park land is allowed, as long as you have a state fishing license. There may be additional regulations you need to follow, including restrictions on bait.


There are frequent fishing regulation changes for waterways throughout the year to manage fish stocks. Be sure to check current information on the CPW website. Here’s where we think you’ll have the best luck on your next fishing trip.


Animas River

While you’d think a state full of mountains would have plenty of freestone fishing opportunities, locations are few and far between. The Animas River, which passes through Durango, is one of these areas. The river is famous for producing large rainbow and brown trout. Conditions vary greatly depending on snow melt and water temperature, adding to the challenge.


Rocky Mountain National Park

Between the Colorado River and over 40 lakes stocked with fish, there are plenty of opportunities to catch trout in this park just west of Loveland and Estes Park. Brown, brook, rainbow and cutthroat trout can be found in lakes, while suckers mostly show up in streams.


Due to the park’s high altitude, some roads are closed most of the year. Only artificial flies and lures are allowed for people 12 years or older, and only one handheld rod is allowed, even if you have a 2nd rod stamp. Be sure to check the park website to see which areas are currently open to fishing.


Spinney Mountain State Park

Located about 60 miles west of Colorado Springs, the Spinney Mountain Reservoir is full of cutthroat and rainbow trout, as well as pike. Brown trout also make appearances in late summer and fall during their spawning season. Thanks to a plentiful supply of fly larvae, game fish grow fast, making it a great place for trophy fishing.


This man-made lake is accessible from two boat docks. Wind gusts up to 40 mph are common, making the area great for sailboating, but this can be a headache for fishing boats. This is one place where you’ll be glad you have a pair of power poles. There’s no camping at this park, but there are plenty of spots at nearby Eleven Mile State Park.


Arkansas River

This river is the most popular fishery in Colorado, mostly due to its size. This river starts near Leadville, passes through the Arkansas River Valley and Royal Gorge, then through Salida, Cañon City and Pueblo. There are great fishing opportunities from the headwaters to the plains, but the best fishing is between Brown’s Canyon and Royal Gorge. The river isn’t known for trophy fish, but massive populations of brown trout make them an easy catch. Rainbow trout are also plentiful. The main fishing season runs between early March to the end of October, but it’s also good for winter fishing as long as snow hasn’t blocked the boat ramps. Some areas, including Stockyard Bridge and Middle Fork, are catch and release only.


Gunnison River

There’s more to fish in Colorado than just trout. The Gunnison river has the best salmon fishing Colorado has to offer, and some of the best views in a state known for its beauty. The river is flooded with fish in late August and early September as they travel upstream to spawn. Depending on water conditions, the best places to fish are in the canyon or freestone areas near Delta. If you prefer trout fishing, you should also try the area where the Taylor and East Rivers meet to form the Gunnison, just outside of Almont.